Thursday, 9 February 2012

Lost in wiki space

Had a bit of a depressing email from one of the students yesterday begging to be allowed to use something less "techie" for his group's presentation. It seems some of the group's members were moved to tears last week - out of frustration, fear or shame at not being able to understand the mysteries of the wiki.

I reassured him that participation was not compulsory - I'd be happy with any format they felt comfortable with. But my heart sank. I then came across this model of learning which reminded me how terribly difficult learning new things is. I figured that they needed to go through this struggle and that I would provide some help when we next met to ensure they could at the very least manage to create a PowerPoint presentation.

Today when I checked in with this same group during our seminar I found them happily working on their presentation based on Facebook as a platform.... hmm.... and they don't like wikis!

Another group informed me that they had decided against Facebook as an option because one of their number refuses to join it, so they have decided to develop a wiki of their own (making use of their newly acquired wikispaces account).

Another group proudly described themselves as "wikimonsters" and had also set up a new wiki, whilst yet another seem to be basing theirs around a blog....

If I was being picky, I find it frustrating that the vast majority of the students still seem to be using the wiki as a one page noticeboard with occasional message posting in the Discussions - as you would Facebook in fact. I guess one reason why some find Facebook easier is because if has a well known format and readily available templates to complete.
But I am really enjoying the project. I have never worked with a cohort of students where so much noise was generated during small group discussions, and where I can't get them to leave at the end of the hour because they are so busy planning their projects. The wiki notifications also show me the amount of work they are prepared to put in after our sessions. Three weeks in, 95% are signed up as members of the wiki now, and they are really into the task. The shorter timescale this year - as well as the incentive of a grade for their final project - seems to be really motivational.

A final thing for my learning: this year we are meeting for 2x1 hour seminars with half of the cohort in each plus a final one hour lecture with everyone. So far I have managed to avoid formal lecturing with a group this size. It is a new challenge for me and one I am not wholly comfortable with. I fundamentally do not like the concept of the lecture. But I am embracing this as a learning opportunity for me.  That seems only fair!

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